What does former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher, former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein and Bruce Springsteen have in common?
They were all mentioned at the Elliott School of International Affairs Celebration Friday afternoon. Speakers at the commencement ceremony held in the Smith Center called upon graduates to not only be leaders in their occupations, but to be positive forces whether their dreams come true or not.
Michael Brown, the dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs, told graduates that as students of The Elliott School, they should have “multi-dream capabilities.”
“If your dream doesn’t come true, get a good night’s sleep and dream another dream,” he said. The ceremony also marked the last time Brown would address the audience as dean.
The graduates left the building as Springsteen’s “Born to Run” played over the speakers.
1. The city is your cubicle
Nicolas Pedreira, an international affairs major from Argentina, highlighted a few lessons he learned during his four years at GW and spoke about his fellow graduates’ experience interning in the District. He also joked about the impermanence of their work spaces.
“D.C. was our cubicle,” he said. “[As interns,] we never got our own office.”
Pedreira cited The Elliott School’s study abroad programs as an opportunity that proved invaluable. The world, he said, is “one giant classroom,” from chances to work with experts in the field to studying “African wildlife – or the even wilder European nightlife.”
He also asked the Class of 2015 to continue to surround themselves with people “wisely” and to remember the positive impact they could have on the world around them.
“It’s been a privilege to learn alongside you,” he said.
2. Flipping the script
Brown took a leaf out of “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart’s book during his address to the graduates.
Brown, who will step down on June 30, brought a short stack of blank printer paper to the podium and a few minutes into his keynote address to about five thousand, tore them up.
“There is no script for the next ten minutes, two hours or for 2015. There’s no script for life,” he said.
Instead of wishing the graduates luck in their professional endeavors, Brown wished them “love, friendship and happiness.”
After graduates received their degrees, which will be conferred on Sunday, Brown took a moment to honor Ben Cumbo, an Elliot School student who died on April 21 after completing his last degree requirement. Cumbo, who had muscular dystrophy, died the day he received his cap and gown in the mail, Brown said.
3. Guided by a moral compass
Edward Gnehm, a former ambassador to Kuwait, Australia and Jordan, spoke about the difference between a politician and a statesman. He said a statesman, like Margaret Thatcher, was guided by a moral compass.
He encouraged graduates to call upon their values as they move into jobs in their areas of interest, and he also told them to “never lose your vision.”
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